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EthnosyntaxExplorations in Grammar and Culture$
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N. J. Enfield

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199266500

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199266500.001.0001

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Ethnosyntax, Ethnopragmatics, Sign-Functions, and Culture

Ethnosyntax, Ethnopragmatics, Sign-Functions, and Culture

(p.52) 3 Ethnosyntax, Ethnopragmatics, Sign-Functions, and Culture


Oxford University Press

This chapter articulates and discusses the concept of ethnosyntax from the standpoint of the natural semantic metalanguage (NSM) theory of Anna Wierzbicka and colleagues. It recognizes two senses of the term ‘ethnosyntax’: a narrow sense referring to culture-related semantic content encoded in morphosyntax, and a broad sense encompassing a much wide range of phenomena in which grammar and culture may be related. The chapter is organized as follows. Section 3.1 discusses ethnosyntax in the narrow sense, illustrating with a slightly reinterpreted version of some of Wierzbicka's classic work on ‘fatalism’ in Russian grammar. Section 3.2 discusses the relationship between ethnosyntax and ethnopragmatics, drawing on the NSM theory of cultural scripts. Section 3.3 argues fro the importance of recognizing that language involves different kinds of sign-function — semantic (symbolic), iconic, indexical — and asks how we can deal with ethnosyntactic connections in the field of iconic-indexical meaning. Section 3.4 broadens the focus further in an effort to situate ethnosyntax in a large semiotic theory of culture, but argues that a semiotic concept of culture is not viable unless it adequately recognizes iconic and indexical, as well as semantic phenomena.

Keywords:   natural semantic metalanguage, Anna Wierzbicka, culture, Russian grammar, semantics

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